By Jennifer Lobb

Content MarketingWhen it comes to marketing advice, it’s easy to get lost in all the shoulds, shouldn’ts, musts and must nots. Professionals the world over can debate the most effective marketing methods, but in 2017, those seeking the sage advice of others would have a difficult time avoiding a healthy endorsement for content marketing. In fact, 86% of B2Cs and 88% of B2Bs employ some content marketing strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute.

Not only are businesses utilizing content as part of their overarching strategy, but they’re seeing results. In fact, when asked to rate the success of their content marketing efforts (from extremely effective to not effective), 97% of both B2Cs and B2Bs reported some level of success. Do you have a solid content marketing strategy in place? Looking to really increase brand awareness in the new year? Here are three reasons why you should include content in your 2018 efforts.

Your Brand Becomes a Resource

In case you haven’t noticed, the Internet is a cramped locale. If you can think it, you can search for, and find, it. Beyond that, businesses that want to survive in today’s overwhelmingly competitive landscape need to be online, only adding to the flooded nature of the internet as we know it. But how does one business stand out? How do you convince customers to buy in? 

When it comes to making a purchase or an investment, many customers are driven by price points, but your pricing structure can only take you so far. Instead, companies that want to remain relevant today must prove that they are knowledgeable about their products, their customer’s needs, and the industry to which they belong.

When done right (quality, not quantity), content – be it tutorials, webinars, blogs, infographics, etc. – makes your brand synonymous with knowledge.

Connect Throughout the Purchase Funnel

Engaging with potential customers right before they are about to make a purchase or sign a contract is great, and content marketing can help you do that. But the real value starts far earlier, at the very first level of the purchasing funnel – awareness.

By developing and circulating quality content, companies can insert their brand into the minds of potential customers far before they ever dream of completing a purchase.

Take for example Restaurant Stuff, a fictitious company that specializes in restaurant supplies and equipment. One of their primary goals it to increase sales through content marketing. In order to do this, they start publishing service industry articles and videos that can help new and existing restaurateurs do everything from improving back-of-the-house efficiency to creating a welcoming atmosphere for guests.

Enter Joe, a restaurant owner who is searching for ways to improve his restaurant. He starts googling things like “improve speed of service” and “create a better restaurant environment,” and lo and behold, our aforementioned supplier’s blog shows up in his search results. In the words of Emeril, “BAM!” Now Joe’s following Restaurant Stuff and regularly checking out their website, blog and social media accounts.

A few months down the road, Joe needs to replace some equipment and find a new paper product vendor. Who do you think he’ll check with first? Restaurant Stuff, of course – the company that used its knowledge to reach Joe far before he needed to make a purchase. That’s the value of a quality content marketing strategy.

Build Relationships

Back in the “good ol’ days,” relationships were forged through one-on-one engagements, be they in-store, over-the-phone, or during sales engagements. Today, while sales professionals still play a vital role in taking that potential relationship to the next level, the relationship starts much sooner than that.

For many businesses, their website or social media profiles take on the onus of “the first encounter,” and often times that experience can make or break the relationship before it really has the opportunity to gain human interaction.

Your website, specifically the content displayed, is your first line of sales. Visitors will develop positive or negative opinions of it fairly quickly – seconds, to be exact. In other words, good content can close a deal. Bad or non-existent content can close the door.

Content isn’t a passing phase in the long history of marketing tactics. It’s here to stay. Businesses that want to set themselves apart from their competition need to make content a focal point of their short- and long-term marketing strategies.

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About the author: Jennifer is a alum of the University of Denver. While in the graduate program there, she enjoyed spending time identifying ways in which non-profits and small businesses could develop into strong and profitable organizations while promoting strong community growth. She also enjoys finding unique ways for freelancers and start-up businesses to reach and expand their goals.

This article originally appeared on Nav.com.